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The 10 Most Essential TV Shows - Make Your Choice (1 Viewer)

Nick*Z

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1. The Twilight Zone - ground-breaking by any measure one may choose to ascribe to television


2. St. Elsewhere - the quintessential 'hospital' drama with an all-star roster. Before there was Chicago Hope, ER or Grey's Anatomy, there was this watershed program and such a shame it is nowhere to be found on home video.


3. I Love Lucy - 'the' comedy legend of TV's early years with few, if any peers. Yes, others came before and afterward, but Ball's unique talent has never been rivaled


4. Mary Tyler Moore - a distinguished cast in an equally as distinguished show


5. Murder She Wrote - one legend plying her craft to the legendary status of this long-running mystery franchise


6. Dallas (original series) - the grand-daddy of all night time soaps for which the term cliffhanger was practically invented.


7. Cheers - a seemingly meaningless trifle about men and women frittering their lives away at a popular Bostonian watering hole. Touched on many topics and gave heart and meaning to the term 'where everybody knows your name'.


8. Fraiser - in all likelihood the most successful TV spin-off ever with another pluperfect cast of lovable reprobates and fools. Classy stuff.


9. The Golden Girls - no one wanted to let Susan Harris produce a program about four 'old broads' living in Miami. The results were indeed golden, however. There has been nothing like it before or since.


10. Law & Order (original series); Dick Wolf spun this one into a franchise of lesser imitators, but his original program, with its ever-revolving roster of police detectives and district attorneys and 'ripped from the headlines' storytelling, remains one of the most compelling - if not - the most compelling police drama ever put on TV. Personal favorite line up: Jerry Orbach, Chris Noth, Jill Hennessy and Michael Moriarty - and, of course, Steven Hill.
 

CraigF

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TravisR said:
... I never climbed into a soup billboard though.

I did! I grew up in the 60s, the 70s, the 80s, a little bit in the 90s, ...


Never saw that one in the show, even though I watched the show when possible in the very early 60s, I only remember it and Dennis the Menace on TV from then, probably because I could relate.


[I thought we "invented" that, we even built a fort up in one beside a busy highway, and our parents knew about it (we were single-digit ages, the 60s). Different times...]


Some good lists. Some a little heavy with cop or western shows, but they were pretty popular/prevalent in some eras. The lists, if personal rather than an overview, would depend a lot on how old you were at the time. Frank Soyke's 60s list here has a lot of comedies and I'd have to pretty much go with that one for myself, with The Prisoner instead of Route 66 (don't know if we even got that here then).
 

BobO'Link

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The 60s is a difficult era to limit to just 10 series as the decade itself changed significantly from 1960 to 1969. To fully see how things changed and get a TV overview of the decade you *must* have *two* lists. One for 1960-1964 and the other from 1965-1969. It's also significant that the TV transition from BW to color programming was in the later half of the decade. It helped define the latter part of the decade as it was somewhat tied to the "Flower Power" movement in that everything was more colorful. Every program I list had its first airing in the 60s rather than 50s shows that conformed to what was becoming popular. So... here's my take on the *20* essential programs that define the US in the 60s.


1960-1964: America was still in its 50s gear but things were starting to change. Many of the programs from the first half of the decade still reflect the feel and feelings of the 50s.


The Andy Griffith Show - This *was* rural America in the 60s. I know because I grew up in a town not much larger than Mayberry. Everyone knew everyone else, and frequently got in other's business, wanted or not.


1. My Three Sons - More "urban" comedy and helped define the change in households. A widower raising his sons with the help from his wife's father. It showed us that not *all* families were mom, dad, and kids.


2. The Flintstones - This one began the era of the *kids* having more to say in what was watched on the home set in a comedy that was still reflective of the 50s. After all, it's basically The Honeymooners in cartoon form.


3. Car 54 Where Are You? - The penchant for silliness is on display here and a look at city life. This is how most of America saw New Yorkers.


4. The Dick Van Dyke Show - The "typical" US suburban household. Working professional husband, stay-at-home mom and 1 kid. Good, but goofy, neighbors.


5. The Beverly Hillbillies - More silliness on display but it appealed to many demographics. Showed the desire to let it all hang out.


6. The Virginian - Westerns were, for the most part, on their way out by the time this one came along but it had literate scripts and good values on display. What many "rural" Americans still held in high regard.


7. Combat! - WWII wasn't *that* far behind us and many households were headed by veterans. This was a mostly realistic account of their trials and values which were still at the forfront of typical American households.


8. The Outer Limits - Mostly literate Science Fiction that displayed the desire for more than the typical fare TV had been offering. A blend of horror and SF, this was at times a bit too much on the edge of acceptable levels of horror for prime time TV.


9. The Fugitive - Even though most kids didn't watch, their *parents* typically did. This was "water cooler" TV in the early 60s.


10. The Man from U.N.C.L.E. - Americas burgeoning affair with the Spy thriller genre. Action and adventure were what people desired and this delivered at least until it became a pale imitation of itself.


1965-1969: The years of "The Summer of Love," the "Hippies," the beginnings of harder rock and growing drug experimentation among the younger generation.


1. Batman - Superhero camp at its very best. Lots of big name stars with cameos or major roles. Fun scripts and outrageous colors.


2. Star Trek - This had on full display many of the fears and attitudes of the American public all the while showing how wrong some of them were. In its scripts colored by alien races, it attacked many of the then current cultural foibles and was often ground breaking with its attitudes towards other cultures, races, and in exposing societal weaknesses.


3. The Smother's Brothers Show - One of several "political" leaning programs with layers of meaning and subtext. It's showed the growing subversive side of American culture, especially the youth all in a package of the variety show that tended to appear somewhat innocuous. But we all knew it wasn't.


4. Get Smart - This one program was watched by almost everyone and originated more catchphrases than just about (or leave out just about) any other program in broadcast history.


5. Mission Impossible - TV, as were Americans, was becoming more sophisticated. Sure there were still silly comedies but *this* was serious stuff. Fashions and attitudes of the years are on full display.


6. Rowan & Martin's Laugh-In - Less subversive than The Smother's Brothers but still extremely reflective of the American youth, their desires, humor, and asthetics.


7. The Mod Squad - This one *screams* 60s youth. The ads proclaimed "One black, one white, one blond!" Undercover cops who looked like the counterculture youth the adults were so fearful of and typically looked down upon. It was a huge statement that there was a black person *and* a woman on the team and that they got along.


8. Hawaii Five-O - The "Cop Show" was becoming a popular staple of American TV and this is one of the best from that era.


9. Love American Style - A program which put on display the changing sexual mores of the American public. While rather tame by today's standards, in those years it was considered to be somewhat daring, if rather cliche' ridden and homogenous in its overall approach.


10. The Monkees - American youth music, attitudes, clothing, and more on full display in a rather silly comedy. Sure it was a fabricated band but they performed themselves (at least after a while) and did *real* songs. It was very reflective of the "pop" or "Top 40" culture of the late 60s.


**EDIT**

I just saw I have *11* shows in the first half of the decade. I can't decide which should leave to get to 10 so they all stay.


I also wanted to add either Bewitched and/or I Dream of Jeannie as they were highly popular programs but just couldn't decide which other, significant, program(s) to leave off for them especially as the ultimate goal was to select programs that showed the state of the country and how people felt at the time - reflections of the culture. Women were starting to leave the house for work and Bewitched showed a more classic representation, similar to The Dick Van Dyke show while I Dream of Jeannie could easily be seen as somewhat sexist in that Jeannie (mostly) stayed home and waited on her "master." It really didn't reflect what was going on in the US and I recall some of the feminist groups being upset at that particular program because of the master/slave approach.
 

mattCR

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80s:


Cosby Show - Despite the current ties and of course links to situations now, the Cosby Show still defined a big swath of the 80s.

Cheers - the other NBC Powerhouse..

St. Elsewhere

Hill Street Blues

Black Adder

Magnum PI

MacGyver

The A-Team

Golden Girls

Saturday Night Live - good or bad, I think you have to include SNL for the 80s, because while the mid was terrible, the early and end of the 80s changed everything..


90s:


Space Ghost Coast-to-Coast: the show that basically launched Adult Swim.

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine (still in my book the best trek, period)

Law & Order .. introduced in 1990. Still dominant everywhere 30 years 25 years later.

Mystery Science Theater 3000 - think about how many shows and references have been influenced by this program.

Homicide: Life on the Streets

X-Files

Seinfield

ER

Friends (*** I didn't watch much of Friends but must acknowledge it's impact as a show)

Buffy the Vampire Slayer
 

CraigF

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Re what BobO'Link said: I watched all of those occasionally, and my sisters watched pretty much all of them (except The Virginian, Combat!, The Fugitive, which I'm not sure we had here).


I would also throw in, from the first half of the 60s mostly, least for us, The Ed Sullivan Show and Bewitched, they were extremely popular in general, and I Dream of Jeannie (popular with the girls in the family, but I "appreciate" it more now). Wouldn't say that latter show was exactly important though...


I remember we used to always watch some hour-long Disney show as a family, Sunday evenings, typically live action, had Disney and Color in the title I think (we didn't have color...), as well as Ed Sullivan shortly after. [Edit: and Bonanza after that.] Variety shows were still quite popular then, but I was getting pretty selective by that age and a lot of them were yuck to me... And we never missed the Bugs Bunny Show on Saturdays.
 

tsodcollector

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here's mine top ten most essential tv shows from the 1960's-1990's

Mash is one of my all time favortie television shows it has comedy and drama and very important television shows of the 70's and 80's it never gets old.

Hogan's Heroes a 60's miltary sitcom whioch is in the likes of Phil Silvers Show Mchale's Navy F-Troop and this one tops them all.truly classic.

Bewitched a 60's/70's television classic that has been in syndication cable/satallite and over the air channels and tsod
they always be with us for decades to come.

Quantum Leap a 80's television sci-fi classic that has stood the test of time the 5th year was the worse where the television
classic started to slip due to numerous changes that fans lost interest in

The Wonder Years a 80's family television classic that premeired after the super bowl on abc showing that year it became a
top 30 hit for 4 of those 6 years.we'll never the like of that again.

Chips a 70's cop classic that has full of action and tons of adventure

The Fall Guy a 80's action favorite was lee majors 4th television series and it was one of his best.

T.j Hooker another 80's action favorite that has stands the test of time this one is no exception

Hunter it's one of my all time favorties the early episodes has action and later years crime suspense a 80's/90's television classic that has lasted for over 40 years.

Macgyver another 80's/90's classic television series it's same as hunter both from the same era.
 

bmasters9

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--M Squad (albeit the film prints on DVD are not pristine, it is still worth it to see the late, great Lee Marvin do his thing as Det. Lt. Frank Ballinger of the titular fictional squad of the Chicago Police)

--Have Gun Will Travel (the first Western I ever did enjoy, and that is because of Richard Boone as Paladin [a thinking man's, philosophical gunfighter who never fired unless absolutely necessary])

--Wanted Dead or Alive (main character Josh Randall [the late Steve McQueen] was similar to Have Gun's Paladin, except that this one was a bounty hunter)

--Perry Mason (the cream of the crop of classic television's defense lawyers, and the late, great Raymond Burr made him so; his co-workers [Barbara Hale as Della Street, and William Hopper as Paul Drake] pitched in admirably and helped Mason get the job done practically every week)

--The Untouchables (this is, IMO, the only Robert Stack role that's worth seeing [outside of the 1980 Airplane! film], because his Eliot Ness exhibited strong leadership of his squad of federal detectives in the Chicago of the late-20s to early-mid-30s)

--Star Trek (the O-R 60s NBC series, and well-esteemed as the one that started it all in a sci-fi franchise that has lasted over 50 years and has had quite a few series, and many items of memorabilia from all those series)

--Emergency! (firefighters/paramedics John Gage [Randy Mantooth] and Roy DeSoto [Kevin Tighe] went bravely to the scene of the action every week; Capt. Hank Stanley [Michael Norell] exhibited very strong leadership here [just like Stack as Ness did on The Untouchables], and the medical staff of Rampart General Hospital [Fuller as Dr. Brackett, London as Nurse McCall, Troup as Dr. Early and Pinkard as Dr. Morton] were always ready to go right to work on everyone the paramedics brought in to Rampart)

--The Streets of San Francisco (albeit I truly enjoyed when Michael Douglas worked with Karl Malden [Douglas' Keller and Malden's Stone made a perfect murder investigation team in the Bay Area], Richard Hatch as Robbins was not half bad in the fifth and final go from 1976-77)

--The Bob Newhart Show (of the two big comedic roles that Bob Newhart had in the 70s and 80s, this one [where he was Dr. Bob Hartley, Chicago psychologist] was the more convincing role than Dick Loudon in Vermont, for reasons unknown)

--Riptide (because the three main characters [Perry King as Cody Allen, Joe Penny as Nick Ryder and Thom Bray as Murray Bozinsky] were very much like brothers, and more the band of brothers than the WWII soldiers in HBO's Band of Brothers)
 
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tsodcollector

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Lassie a very television family drama that has stands the test of time this one is no exception we have to talk about time speaks for itself.

Naked City an early cop tv drama that has a load of who's who in entertainment an all time cop tv classic.

Route 66 is in the same era as Naked City but it has adventure and drama that has stands the test of time,i'll be around.

The Courtship Of Eddie's Father a classic 70's sitcom that has pure family entertainment was part of 60's and 70's ABC
friday night lineup along with Room 222 Brady Bunch Partridge Family and this one tops them all.

My Favorite Martian truly classic 60's sitcom that has lasted for 60 years starting in 1963.

Wiseguy the 1980's cop tv drama that left a legacy behind will never seen the light of day again,been imitated many times over the years this cop drama will never seen the light ever again.

The X-Files let's face it the show was never the same after david duchovny left but back in the 90's it was the most popular
sci-fi tv drama of it's time.

Without A Trace jerry bruckheimer produced television series with it's crime setting and intique this television series has lasted 7 years on CBS it became a top 20 most watched television shows of the 2000's this one is no exception.

Cold Case crime television series that has left a legacy behind that has seemed rare now but back in the 2000's it was the most watched television series on CBS.

Nova one of PBS longest running science television series in television history this one is one of them.
 

bmasters9

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Why was much of my post here struck through when I made minor edits to the content to fix formatting and other errors?
 

tsodcollector

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Unhappily Ever After one of The WB's first hits when in launched in 1995 now it's the same as Married With Children but more groundbreaking.

Party Of Five one of the most popular family dramas on television this one is no exception

7th Heaven very wholesome christain family entertainment now known these days as the stephen collins scandal but in 1996 it was most watched family tv drama on The WB.

Earth Final Conflict one of the most groundbreaking scifi television series of all time the 5th season was crazy but if you watch the first two years it was completly different.

La Femme Nikita one of the most popluar television shows on usa in the 90's at a time where we seen lot of primetime television shows features the kids from the creek a skinny lawyer and warrior princess until this one came along changed everything forever.

Gilmore Girls one of the highest rated family tv dramas on the wb in the 2000's this one is no exception the final season was a waste but if you watch the early seasons those stands the test of time.

Alias one of the most highest rated television shows in the 2000's at a time where most of these television shows such as
The District 24 and The Agency predictable television shows were trying to break the top 30 but Alias was the one television series that broke though this one is no exception.

Family one of the most groundbreaking family dramas of the 70's this emmy winning family drama has stood the test of time
it made kristy mcnichol a teen heartthrob of the 70's and 80's.

Eight Is Enough very wholesome christian family entertainment of the 70's

The White Shadow a classic 70's teen drama that has set the benchmark of all teen dramas that come around.

Gormer Pyle USMC a truly classic 60's classic that is laugh out loud funny.
 
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